Sagacia looked up from sorting the mail. Her friend was in a full-blown tizzy.
“Whatever in the world are you talking about?”
“Well, you say it’s impossible to do a fairy tale justice without including all the fiddly bits — each instance of the eldest siblings dissing the crone or the bent old man, each instance of their shame, the youngest sibling’s kindness and the rewards, along with injunctions from the crone or codger about how to cash in on the reward and the consequences for deviating from explicit instructions, every temptation the hero(ine) overcomes in order to triumph…every single little element has to be included or you’re … I don’t know … debasing the canon.”
“Did I say that?” asked the astonished Sagacia.
“Pretty much. And then Nick Smith implied that you were absolutely right.
There are plenty of folk tales that fit within a 5-minute time frame, but I have to agree that most traditional fairy tales are longer, due to their structure. The only tellings I’ve heard that are shorter really require the the audience to be familiar with the story, which is then told in a sort of shorthand form. So now of course the question has to be, is it POSSIBLE to tell a fairy tale, from scratch, in under five minutes. If we’re talking about full-bore hero quests with magical aid and various encounters, it seems difficult.
“Not only that, but Brian Rohr says he wondered if you could do a 3-minute fairy tale, and then he asks…”
…but then, why would you want to?
“Well,” said Sagacia reasonably, “Why would you want to?”
“Because sometimes all you have is five minutes! Because maybe you want to distill a timeless tale into its barest essence. Because sometimes you have to strip away all the fiddly bits to find out what the story is really about…today…for you personally…right now. Because sometimes you find yourself on a bus sitting next to someone who gets off in two stops but really wants to hear a fairy tale…not a folk tale, not a pourquoi, a legend, a myth…”
The word “myth” jerked Sagacia up short.
“Hmmmm,’ she said. “Yeah. We tell foreshortened versions of myths all the time. Or we start in the middle and only tell a piece of it, and even limiting ourselves to little pieces, we still omit volumes. Like Theseus. How often do we tell about his trip over land to Athens? How often do we fill in the blank about how the minotaur came to be in the first place?”
Simplia nodded enthusiastically.
“You don’t always need to serve the whole enchilada. Sometimes just a bite-sized chunk or two will do.” And then, appropos of nothing that had come before, she wondered aloud, “What’s this on the bottom of my shoe?”
She bent down a peeled a post-it note that was stuck to the sole of her shoe. Having been walked through mud and gravel to and from the Fairy Tale Lobby to Faraway Cottage, where the Simpletons lived, the note was barely legible. But Simplie could read the name of the writer: Marion Leeper. And while the actual message was lost to the footpath, Simplia was able to make out the gist of it…Which was…
If you want to deliver a punch packing short version of a fairy tale that will please even strict adherents to traditional deliveries, find one that has been immortalized in ballad form!
“Well, duh,” said Simplia. “Why didn’t we think of that?”
Sagacia said, “Because our last name is not Leeper. It is Simpleton.”